Julia Helen (Falkiewicz) Liro, 93, died peacefully in Austin, TX, May 29. Born in Wilbraham and lived in Ludlow nearly all her life until her move to Austin two years ago. Julie loved her home town, her family and her Church, but the truly great love of her life was her husband, Lou, to whom she was married at 17. They shared 61 years together, and are together once again.
Julie is survived by her children, Joe and Judith Liro, of Austin, and Fran Liro and Lynn Turner-Liro of Summerville, South Carolina; her grandchildren Christopher Liro and Risa Brooks of Chicago; Kate and Tony Mason of Houston, Texas; and Kate and Dan Millet of Timberlake, North Carolina; and her great-grandchildren Reagan and Hayden Mason; Will and Theo Liro; and Seamus and Beckett Millet. She is also survived by her nieces Anna Belisle, Donna Boivin, and Eleanor Pachuki, who were especially close to her, and by their families; and, by Ginny, Al, Tom, Lorraine, and Brian Czapienski.
She was preceded in death by parents, Piotr and Helen; her brother Ted; her husband, Lou, in 1995; by Sonny, her first child, who died in 1944 at age 7; and by Ciotka Anna Tomczyk, who was like a mother to her.
Her parents were Polish immigrants, and her husband Lou grew up in Poland and came to the States to work in the textile mills. She was proud of her heritage and had a deep love for her Polish parish and the Polish school that she and later her children attended.
Julia was a 1934 graduate of Ludlow High School. She worked at Cromwell Mills in Indian Orchard, where she formed friendships that lasted a lifetime, and retired from Chemi-Graphic of Ludlow. She was a founding member of Christ the King Church and before that a member of Immaculate Conception Church in Indian Orchard. She was also a longtime friend and supporter of the Felician Sisters of Enfield and of their teaching ministry.
Julie was generous, friendly to all, and gracious. She knew everyone’s birthday and anniversary and took great pleasure in sending hand-written notes and greeting cards to friends and family all across the country. Small things brought her great joy, a movie matinee with her girlfriends, a fresh fruit cup, making pierogi for the parish picnic, a crop of tomatoes and green beans from her garden, fragrant roses, and her Swieconka table.
Julie’s life was rich with family and friends in Ludlow and the Orchard, and we wish we could recognize them all. A few very special ones are these: her dear friends Ann Dill, Laura Kogut, and Josie Witowski, as well as Helen Lemek, who drove her to daily Mass; her next-door neighbors Joe and Fati Texeira and their daughters and grandchildren; her hairdresser and long-time friend Joe Tetrault; and her dear friends Sister Mary Jeanette, Father Richard Riendeau, and Father Ray Soltys. Thank you all.
Obituaries and eulogies, I believe, are really less about death than they are about the odd shapes life takes, and the patterns that death allows us to see. These patterns are important.
Julie loved kids, she loved their energy and enthusiasm and loved to surprise them with little gifts. She met them in church or at the mall and there are surely hundreds who know her as Grandma Julie, the pleasant, tiny woman who always managed to have an extra dollar bill in her purse.
She lost her little boy, a first-grader, when he was seven, in one weekend. She was not much more than a kid herself at that time – she married at 17, Sonny was born when she was 20, and he died when she was 27. This young woman experienced so much grief in her then short life – her own mother, after all, died when she was 8. Julie grieved for Sonny all her life and kept his memory alive.
Sonny’s death brought the Felician Sisters into her life in a special way. The nuns that taught Sonny now ministered to Julie, holding her broken heart in their gentle hands and in that nurturing formed bonds that would last all her life. Sister Mary Celestia, Sonny’s first grade teacher and herself a very young woman at the time was perhaps her first best friend. She remained a friend of our family’s until she died.
Julie was herself a faithful friend to many. So many have told us this week, and especially last night “Julie was the best friend I ever had. Julie could be trusted. Julie was an example for us. Julie was faithful. Julie was generous. Julie never complained. Julie never expected anything in return.”
My four grandkids visited Julie during the final couple weeks of her life. First Chris and his wife Risa and their two boys visited Julie. Julie’s dementia was advanced, and I’m not sure Julie realized that they were her great-grandsons, but their antics and laugher and running and kisses and tickles made her laugh with joy. It was good to see her laugh out loud as she followed them with her eyes as they raced around the room. Then not many days later, after her health took a very serious downturn and she was bedridden and generally non-responsive, Kate and her little girls came from Houston for one last visit. Reagan gave Gramma Julie gentle caresses as she sat next to her on her bed. The little one, Hayden, brought her doll, and she would say to Julie with lots of energy, “Let’s play dolls, Gramma Julie. Wanna play dolls? You have your doll. Here’s my doll.” Her affection for Julie was spontaneous and genuine, and I know that Julie knew the two little girls were there and that she could feel their love.
Julie was an optimist. It was in her nature to dwell upon her blessings. What was given to her was more important that what was withheld. Until she had to surrender it, she was glad to have her health and her life.
The dementia was an awful thing. It changed Julie and stole her life and her spirit away. She forgot things and she forgot people. Her gregarious, friendly personality slipped away, she became more and more physically helpless, and she drifted in an out of a couple different realities. Some things would help reconnect her with the “real Julie” and the “real world.” Judith would frequently show her pictures from her calendars, and Julie could remember who the people were. Sometimes it took a little prompting, but she would remember, if only for a few minutes.
In her last weeks, she tended to speak more Polish. She and I said evening prayers together in Polish, she would make little jokes in Polish, sometimes she would talk to her dad in Polish, sometime she spoke to people we didn’t know. At the very end, for two or three days, when she was barely responsive, I played Polish Christmas Carols for her and sang them out loud to her, encouraging her to sing in her heart. “Wsrod nocnej ciszy,” “Dzisiaj v Betlejem,” “Lulajze Jezuniu, lulajze lulaj.”
Julie often spoke about heaven. She would ask, “I wonder who will meet me when I get there? Who will be waiting for me? Dad? Sonny? My mom? Who will I see first?”
Once she said, “I don’t know what kind of job they will give me up there, but whatever it is, I hope that I will be able to work close to Dad. That would be nice.” I don’t know what he she had in mind for a job, but I do know the answer to her question. She and Dad and Sonny and all the others, from all the generations and all the nations have one job – to praise God. Around the throne they continually sing, “Holy, holy, holy, heaven and earth are full of thy glory.” Around the throne they continually sing, “Praise and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength to our God for ever and ever.” (Rev 7:12) Amen.
Her funeral Mass will be celebrated at Christ the King Church in Ludlow, at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, June 8, with family and friends gathering at the funeral home at 9:30, she will be buried in the family plot at St. Aloysius Cemetery in Indian Orchard.